The Relationship Between the Retired and Non-Retired Spouse

People often love the symmetry of a professional and personal partnership. Marriage often takes on this beautiful balance when both partners work; they wake together, eat together, entertain, adventure, and rest together. Their world seems right and fair. Unfortunately, as with most things in life, change is inevitable.

When one spouse retires but the other continues to work full-time, the calm routine is disrupted. The retiree no longer needs to rise, eat, and sleep when the working spouse does, which can create tension, jealousy, frustration, and, sadly, disconnection.

Retirement should be a time of exploration and enjoyment, not conflict and resentment. Relationship experts and those who have experienced the imbalance between the retiree and worker marriage make several suggestions for reducing stress and friction during the transition.

1. Keep Talking

It is relatively common when one spouse retires that communication lulls. Suddenly, the retired spouse doesn't know how to talk to the working spouse and vice versa. 

Some of the discourse comes from a lack of commonality. The couple can no longer share in water cooler or office talk, so they don't know what to say. The working partner often feels guilty about discussing workplace drama because the retired partner should no longer have to deal with professional issues. The retired spouse can feel that discussing fun or entertaining things they do are unfair to the partner that cannot participate.

While the feelings typically come from a place of compassion, when a couple stops talking or sharing their experiences, the relationship can struggle. Always share the highs and lows of your day with each other. While your experiences might be different, they are no less valid.

2. Re-Examine the Budgets

Retirement should lead to budgetary discussions. Both partners need to realize how the loss of one income will affect spending and saving habits. Depending on pensions, social security benefits, and more, the household income can change drastically.

Before one spouse retires, the financial impact of the decision needs consideration. The decision to retire needs to come from a unified place as a couple. If one spouse makes the decision unilaterally, it has the potential to upend the stability of the home. Additionally, one person making the decision will create significant tension in the marriage.

3. Create Boundaries

Retirement usually comes with scheduling changes. A retiree no longer has to worry about a clock. Unfortunately, that can result in some conflict between the partners.

A retiree might like to stay up late and sleep in, but their partner might not appreciate being woken up in the middle of the night to them climbing into bed. Additionally, the retiree might not appreciate being woken up by an alarm at 5:00 am.

It is necessary to set boundaries and rules when there is a scheduling change. For instance, many relationship experts suggest that couples continue to sleep and wake up together, resulting in less bedtime and breakfast tension.

4. Divide and Conquer

Retirees tend to look at their retirement as freedom, but the working spouse can look at their partner's retirement as an opportunity to take things off the to-do list. To avoid disagreements, a couple must discuss their expectations. A retiree cannot expect to live without any responsibility, but a non-retiree cannot expect their partner to spend all their time working.

Essentially, avoiding disagreements and stress is about communication; this is something all couples know but seem to forget when their lifestyles are no longer similar. It can be challenging navigating the retiree and non-retiree relationship, but all things are possible through love.

Do you have any relationship pointers?